Hyundai plans to be one of the world's five largest automakers by 2010, up from seventh. Part of its strategy is a bigger, "aspirational" 2006 Santa Fe that makes room in the lineup for the new, smaller Tucson. The Elantra-based crossover is just 170.3 inches long, with a crude 140-horse iron-block 2.0-liter I-4 or a 173-horse, 2.7-liter aluminum-block V-6, both with continuously variable valve timing and front- or all-wheel drive (which Hyundai calls torque-on-demand 4WD). Either comes with a four-speed automatic, and a five-speed manual is available with the four.
The preproduction V-6s we drove were tight and well built, with a crowd-pleasing list of standard features. Plastics remain among the cheapest in the business, however, and the leather seats might as well be vinyl. As for the dynamics, we were neither disappointed nor delighted. The V-6 makes just 12 and 13 more horsepower, respectively, than the fours in chief competitors Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V; the Hyundai is also heavier than either, so it's not peppy. The suspension is soft and inspires drivers to reach for the excellent brakes early in the corners. The attractive Tucson is an improvement over the ungainly Santa Fe and is among Hyundai's best-built models, but it only incrementally raises Hyundai's status as an automaker (despite recent positive J.D. Power initial quality ratings). On the other hand, that Hyundai has any status is something no one would've predicted five years ago.
|2005 Hyundai Tucson|
|Price range|| $17,000-$20,000 (est)|
|Layout|| Front engine, fwd or awd, 5-door, 5-pass, SUV |
|Engines ||2.0L/140-hp I-4, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl; 2.7L/173-hp V-6, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|0-60 mph, sec|| 9.0 sec (MT est, V-6 awd)|
|On sale in U.S. || September 2004|